Elk NetworkNew Overpass to Protect Colorado Wildlife and Drivers

General | December 17, 2020

Life along a busy stretch of highway in southwest Colorado is about to become much more safe for drivers, elk, deer and other wildlife thanks to the construction of a new wildlife overpass and underpass. The project site is on U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs near Chimney Rock National Monument.

“This is a heavily used corridor by vehicles and an important area in the San Juan Basin for big game,” said Scott Wait, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologist. “Deer and elk spend the warm months in the high country to the north; but most big game move to the important winter range areas south of the highway during the winter. So there is a huge number of deer and elk that cross the highway at that location.”

Project partners include CPW, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Southern Ute Indian Tribe and other organizations. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation contributed $75,000 toward the $11.3 million project.

“We are extremely grateful for the phenomenal partnerships that have made this project feasible,” said Tony Cady, CDOT planning and environmental Manager for southwest Colorado. “Not only have several agencies and organizations come forward with valuable funding commitments, some agencies have also contributed with studies, research and development plans to make the project possible.”

Research shows some wildlife species prefer underground routes to cross highways instead of being exposed on an overpass. The project also includes additional fencing, wildlife escape ramps and road improvements. Construction begins in the spring of 2021.

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(Photo source: Colorado Department of Transportation)